Rules of the Road: Jalopnik's Guide To Teenage Driving Rules


It was a while before we got what the term "hardship license" meant, as we considered being able to drive when you're under the age of 16 a miracle. Later we learned to get one you generally have to be a farmer or have disabled parents, live in poverty and have a job. This all underlines the point that when you don't have a driver's license, the rules regarding how to get one are increasingly important. And while most of us have the ability to drive legally, we're all still often at the mercy of woefully unprepared and unskilled teenage motorists (some of whom are our children).

Laws regarding who can drive, how and when vary from state-to-state, though most states allow drivers to get restricted licenses by age 16 and full licenses by age 18. Because there is no overarching federal law regarding licensing, each state has managed to invent their own rules, with a general trend towards more strict regulations.

Learner's Permit

The first step for most teenage drivers is to get a learner's permit, which allows students to drive with a parent or an adult in the car. The age for this is as low as 14 years old (Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota) and as high as 16 in many states, mostly along the East Coast.

Driver's Ed

Most states have licensed or accredited driver's education program, mostly through high schools that need to find a way to get creepy and ill-educated coaches a chance to earn an education stipend. In Georgia, a student must wait until they're 17 unless they've completed a driver's education course. In Illinois, a student must complete 50 hours of driving before they can even apply for a license (which sucks for them, because most classes are designed so that you can't miss a single one).

Restricted License

A restricted license is a lot like it sounds (some states call it a graduated license), it's a license with certain restrictions including when, where and how they can drive. For example, if you've got a hot date in Maine and your dad's Firebird you're SOL as drivers with restricted licenses (under the age of 17) can only drive with family and during daylight hours.

State-by-State

Below are state-by-state licensing requirements as of 12/00/2007, which are subject to change whenever legislators feel like it:

Alabama
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: None
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Must have permit for 15 months before receiving a full license.

Alaska
Learning Permit Age: 14
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 16.5
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Arizona
Learning Permit Age: 15.6
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Must complete a test to receive a permit.

Arkansas
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions:

California
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions:

Colorado
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Connecticut
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.33
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions:

Delaware
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Florida
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 need an adult above the age of 21 in the car between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am.

Georgia
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions: Six months before a driver can have more than one passenger in the car.

Hawaii
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: None
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Idaho
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 15
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 need an adult above the age of 21 in the car between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am.

Illinois
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: Yes (50 hours)
Additional Restrictions: No cell phone usage under 18 unless in an emergency situation.

Indiana
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: Yes
Additional Restrictions:

Iowa
Learning Permit Age: 14
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Kansas
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 15
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Kentucky
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Louisiana
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 cannot drive overnight

Maine
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 cannot drive overnight or with passengers not in their immediate family.

Maryland
Learning Permit Age: 15.66
Restricted License: 16.33
Full License: 17.66
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Massachusetts
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 cannot drive overnight without the presence of a parent and cannot drive with underage passengers that are not in their immediate family unless with a licensed driver over the age of 21.

Michigan
Learning Permit Age: 14.75
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Minnesota
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Mississippi
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 15.6
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Missouri
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Montana.
Learning Permit Age: 14,5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18 (or after a full year of restricted license)
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Nebraska
Learning Permit Age: 14.25
Restricted License: 15
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Nevada
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

New Hampshire
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers with restricted licenses cannot drive between 1:00 am and 5:00 am or with more than one minor that is not a family member.

New Jersey
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 17
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers with restricted licenses cannot drive between 12:00 am and 5:00 am or with more than one minor that is not a family member.

New Mexico
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 15.5
Full License: 16.5
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

New York
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 18 (or six months after permit)
Full License: 18 (17 with driver's education certificate)
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 cannot drive between 9:00 pm and 5:00 am unless for a school event, job or along with a licensed driver over the age of 21

North Carolina
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 16.5
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Restricted license drivers may not drive between 9:00 pm and 5:00 pm

North Dakota
Learning Permit Age: 14
Restricted License: 14.5
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Drivers with restricted licenses can only drive cars owned by parent/gaurdian or with dual controls.

Ohio
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: Yes (under 18)
Additional Restrictions: Drivers under the age of 17 can't drive between 12:00 am and 6:00 am and can't drive with more than one non-family member under the age of 21, under 18 between 1:00 am and 5:00 am.

Oklahoma
Learning Permit Age: 14.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 6 months after restrictions
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Oregon
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Pennsylvania
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 18
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions: Restricted drivers can't drive between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am without a waiver or have more passengers than seat belts.

Rhode Island
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 17.5
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

South Carolina
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

South Dakota
Learning Permit Age: 14
Restricted License: 14.25 (with drivers ed)
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Tennessee
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License:
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Texas
Learning Permit Age: 14.6
Restricted License:
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Utah
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: 16.5
Additional Restrictions:

Vermont
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License:
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Virginia
Learning Permit Age: 15.6
Restricted License:
Full License: 16.25
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Washington
Learning Permit Age: 15 (with driver's ed)
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 17
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Washington, D.C.
Learning Permit Age: 16
Restricted License: 16.5
Full License: 21
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

West Virginia
Learning Permit Age: 15
Restricted License:
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Wisconsin
Learning Permit Age: 15.5
Restricted License: 16
Full License: 18 (or 9 months under restricted without incident)
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

Wyoming
Learning Permit Age: 14.5
Restricted License:
Full License: 16
Driver's Ed Req: No
Additional Restrictions:

[Sources: GoLocal, Wiki, Boston Globe]